I’ve followed the autobiographical story of author Tobias Buckell’s breaking-in to the novel writing world with great interest. And since reading his latest installment, “The Value of Friends“, I’ve been thinking about the idea of my “cohort” of fellow speculative-fiction writers.
A “cohort” of writers, as suggested in Tobias Buckell’s piece, are a group of writers who are familiar with each other and who break-in to the industry roughly as a group. They are writing contemporaries. As mentioned in his article, the cohort is a supportive community who help each other and encourage each other. There’s no formal delineation. It’s a pretty ad-hoc organization.
I first wrote about the topic of writers in “community” back during my “Breaking In” series of posts in February/March of this year. What I wrote in that article still holds true: that two purposes of writing communities are as a peer-review group and as a network to help develop crucial contacts that can lead to success. But, I think I missed something else of vital importance in my conclusions on that post: the importance of community as an end unto itself. Writers form communities in part because humans form communities, and membership in a community is a genuine human need.
So, I’ve wondered about my “community” and about my “cohort”. Who is in it? Where are we going? How will we get there? And can we, collectively, break in to professional writing?
Certainly, I find that fellow writer/blogger/future-published-author T. S. Bazelli is part of that “cohort”. I’m continually impressed by her skill and facility with words and imagery, characters and the emotional component of story. I will give you very favorable odds that Bazelli will be among the first of this group to get published. I can also include my real-life friend (whom I will only call Ms. J., because she has not commented on my blog publicly) whose working draft I reviewed and commented on a couple months back. The ideas in her novel draft are very engaging and original, and they leave you with a taste of “what happens next?” in your mouth. Then there’s Barbara Tarn and Writer’s Block NZ. I’ve also recently been following J. P. Cabit and Aidan Fritz, who have posted some interesting stories to their respective blogs. And, if I expand my circle outward to include writers in genres other than speculative fiction, I’ll find Lua Fowles, a literary fiction writer who lives in a part of the world that’s so interesting, she can’t help but write interesting stories! And there may be others whom I have neglected to mention.
Frankly, I worry that my cohort is looking a little anemic. Over time (as free time permits – something that won’t be true in the immediate short-term) I hope to grow my “cohort” to include other great writers as I encounter them. And together, hopefully we’ll help each other polish our work and perfect our craft as we make our way toward our mutual goal of publication.
There’s also the question of the rather nebulous nature of such a group. Because it’s not a formal group, how do you figure who’s in the group and who isn’t? I may have neglected to mention some names because I wasn’t sure if they counted as a member of my “cohort” or not. How many such people would want to be counted thusly? How many people that I have counted would not want to be? And how much does it matter how you count the group? What about members of my “community” who don’t aspire to be published writers, but who are interested in my success – like my Dear Wife, or other close friends? These, too, can be very helpful in offering support, encouragement, and even reviews!
One thing’s for certain: it’s a tough road to walk, trying to get published. And we’re going to need all the help we can get!
To those of you who comment regularly, and whose writing I am enjoying: Thank you.
So, sound off in the comments: who’s in your “cohort”? Who’s in your community? What thoughts would you like to share?
Happy writing… and reading…